Table of Contents
For what?- You ask?
For everything you have!
Especially the gifts that are given to us by nature, which we tend to take for granted. In the hustle-bustle of our Bugatti-fast lives, it is very natural to not pay heed on minor things; we take as our birthright. Guess what! Our, at-times irrational ancestors, infused a colourful way to be thankful for nature’s bounties specifically–Food and Agriculture. These carnivals are celebrated all across India as Harvest Festivals.
Be it the Sakkarai Pongal from Tamil Nadu or Lohri from Punjab and Haryana, these Harvest Festivals are Indian Equivalent of the famous Thanksgiving Festival. More than 70% of Indian population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that India celebrates a number of Harvest festival in various regions depending on weather and crops.
These variations, however, serve as a true reminder of nature’s many gifts. And, though, these holidays are not declared as national holidays, but they are declared as state holidays in their noteworthy regions- each celebrated with a unique tradition, story and food.
Uttrayan(Makar Sankranti)- All regions especially in Gujarat- January
Makar Sankranti is the oldest and the most colourful harvest festival in India. As per Hindu mythology, the festival signifies the victory of good over evil, end of an unfavourable phase and beginning of a holy phase. Colourful kites of all size, shape and colour breathe the skies as merrymakers indulge themselves in a serious yet playful kite-fights.
People start to prepare for Uttrayan well in advance, the seasonal shops are stuffed with different kinds of kites and threads, almost a month prior. On the day of the festival, groups carry drums and other musical instruments, go from place to place- sing, play and dance.
Gujaratis also pamper themselves with various delicacies varying from Jalebi, Thandai, Puran Poli, and Khichdi.
“The key attraction of Uttrayan is Kumbh Mela, extravagant sweet dishes- made of sesame and jaggery, undhiyu-puri, and Dahi Vada“.
2. Pongal- Tamil Nadu- January
Pongal is same as Makar Sankranti celebrated during the month of January. It is a four-day festival to mark the northward transition of the sun for the next six months. The word “Thai Pongal” literally means “to boil”, displaying an overflow of the harvested crops. Cooking of rice is of major significance in Pongal.
The first day is devoted to Lord Indra for the abundance of rain. On the second day, rice is boiled in milk in the outdoors to offer to the sun-god. The third day also termed as “Mattu Pongal” is a day to worship cattle. On the last and fourth day, traditional coloured rice is served with turmeric, betel leaf, and betel nuts.
3. Baisakhi- Punjab- April
Festival of Baisakhi is considered as an important festival for various reasons. Firstly, it has its value for the farmers as a harvest festival. Secondly, It is of prime importance in Sikhism as a foundation day of Khalsa Panth. People of Punjab and Haryana wear their colourful clothes and dance to the melodious beats of Nagara(drums) that fill the area. Acrobatics, wrestling, algoza and vanjli performances are exhibited in many Baisakhi fairs. Sikhs also celebrate Baisakhi by participating in special prayers organized in Gurudwaras.
The auspicious day of Baisakhi is celebrated all over India under different names. It is celebrated as “Naba Barsha” in Bengal, “Puthandu” in Tamil Nadu, “Pooram Vishu” in Kerela and “Vaishakha” in the state of Bihar.
“Special delicacies” to overindulge: coconut laddoo, sarsoon ka saag, makki ki roti, pindi chana, carrot halwa and dry fruit kheer.
4. Onam- Kerela- August
Onam is the biggest and the most splendid festival of Kerala. As per a legend, this harvest festival is celebrated to welcome the King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerela during Onam. The festival is celebrated for 10 consecutive days and it is indeed a treat to be a part of the grand retreat. To relish the harvest, people wear colourful clothes, play games- onakalikal, draw Rangoli and make flower mats- for the entrance of their house.
Another enchanting feature of Onam is Vallamkhali- the snake boat race which is held on the river Pampa. It is a distinctive sight to watch beautifully decorated boats oared by their boatmen in the middle of chorus songs.
The most Enchanting feature of Onam is Onasadhya. It is a 9-course meal consisting of 11 to 13 mouth-watering dishes which also includes Rasam and Payasam.
5. Nuakhai- Odisha- September
“Nua” means new and “Khai” means food. This harvest festival is to worship food grains and also warmly pray for the new Khai(food). Besides, it signifies an end of evil days and start of fresh-new days. This is the most important festival of Western Odisha. It is also known as Nuakhai Parab or Nuakhai Bhetghat.
Although the origin of Nuakhan is lost in the history, oral word dates it back to almost 12th century AD. Nuakhai is believed to have nine colours and as a consequence of that. nine sets of rituals are performed for each of these colours.
Key Attraction of Nuakhai is Arsaa Pitha (Sweet Pancakes).
6. Gudi Padwa- Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat- March-April
Gudi Padwa is a beginning of the New Year for the Marathi Hindus. It is celebrated in Maharashtra on the first day of Chaitra month. People brace themselves for new hopes, new beginnings and broader chances of prosperity. The festival is celebrated with a lot of joy through drawing Rangolis, meeting friends and family and cooking. People also make Bamboo dolls to hang at the front door. The arrangement is capped with Silver, bronze or copper pot signifying victory.
Delicacies for Gudi Padwa- Puran Poli, Shirkhand and Sunth Paak.
7. Ladakh Harvest Festival- September
This harvest festival has recently gained popularity all over the world. Nevertheless, it just makes Ladakh all the more beautiful during that time.
Monasteries and stupas are gorgeously decorated and taking pilgrimage is an important part of this celebration. Archery and artistic handicraft items are another creative features of this festival.
Key attraction of Ladakh Harvest Festival: Dramas based on real lives and different dance performances based on the Tibetan culture
8. Bhogali Bihu- Assam- January
The Magh Bihu festival in Assam is celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm. People gather around a bonfire, known as “meji”, and then feast together. They also throw pithas that are made out of jaggery, sesame and coconuts, as a tribute to Agni. The festival majorly marks the end of the harvesting season and further praying for abundant reaping.
This festival is celebrated in cities as well as villages, although the modes of celebration differ in both.
Major Delicacies include- A lavish buffet with fish, duck, a variety of meats and roasted sweet potato.
9. Lohri- Punjab and Haryana- January
The mere mention of Lohri and Punjab creates an imaginative landscape of colourfully dressed, men and women, dancing, as the beats of dhol fill the air. Celebrated on the eve of Makar Sankranti by both the Hindus and the Sikh community, this festival is about the victory of good over evil.
The festival is marked by paying respect to the Sun God. To kill the chills of winter, the entire neighbourhood gathers around the bonfire and sing together.
The key attraction of Lohri is gur ki roti, murmura ladoo and Makhane ke kheer.
10. Kicheri- Uttar Pradesh
People in Uttar Pradesh have a distinctive way of celebrating the harvest. They mark it with a holy dip in the Ganges. Approximately 2 million people gather across the river and perform rituals. They maintain a strict fast till these rituals are over.
Wearing new clothes and donating black lentils, is also considered very religious during this festival.
Key delicacies are til and gur ke ladoo. (made out of sesame and jaggery sweet)
India has a population of 1.324 billion people- living under the influence of various ancient traditions, one of which is to be thankful for nature.
So, don’t wait!
Plan on attending some of these harvest festivals, you’ll be amazed to witness this diversified yet beautiful land.